Thursday, July 26, 2007

Keeping the World Away

Keeping the World Away, by Margaret Forster, is a book about a painting and the women whose lives it touches. I really enjoyed reading this novel. It is beautifully written, detailed yet spare at the same time. I am not a particular fan of short stories and this book is told from multiple points of view which sometimes presents a difficulty to me. I prefer to become absorbed in one story, and often books written in this manner feel 'choppy' to me; I find it stressful to keep having to 'begin again' with new characters every so often. Forster cleverly ties each woman's story together, which results in a very cohesive tale. Each woman in the novel has a rich inner life and enjoys her solitude which is not regarded as loneliness. I could really relate to this, being an introvert myself. A short passage from the book:

She had begun to see the point of there being no overt human presence in that room-people were disturbances. It was only possible to be tranquil if there were no people around.

I found myself thinking a lot about the cover of this book. The photograph above is the American edition, I do like it and feel it relates well to the content of the book. However, I wondered why the painting being written about was not on the cover.

This book reminded me quite a bit of Susan Vreeland's novel Girl in Hyacinth Blue. This is also a story of a painting, albeit imaginary, and the people whose lives it comes into.


Iliana said...

This sounds good and I'm adding it to that TBR list. Have you read anything else by Forster? I read Lady's Maid years ago and loved it. This sounds quite different though but I'm interested in it definitely.

nutmeg said...

I've not heard of this writer before. I usually avoid short stories myself but this does sound very interesting. I will have to look into her writings!

As to the zucchini I usually put them in stir fries (chopped veggies, meat, asian herbs, oyster/hoisin/soy sauce, cashews/pine nuts, etc etc served with rice) or grate them into a tomato based sauce for bolognaise or lasagne etc or char grill them to have with an anti-pasta plate or put on a toasted sandwich with a mild cheese and tomato.

Cornflower said...

I loved that book!
I don't know Susan Vreeland, though, so I'm off to look her up.

sherry said...

I am 2/3 of the way through Keeping the World away. I am enjoying it, but have found myself restlessly paging through it, wondering what the painting looks like. I think you are right, it would have been so enlightening to have it on the cover or on the endpapers.
The Go-Between is on my list to be reread, since it is a book that inspired Juliet Nicholson in writing The Perfect Summer, which is shaping up as the standout book of the year for me. So far.

Robin said...

I've never read any Margaret Forster, but have been hearing really good things about her. This book sounds like a really good introduction to her.

Kelly said...

Sounds interesting.

Tara said...

Bookgirl, I have also read Lady's Maid, a few years ago and enjoyed it. You are right, the books are very different.

Nutmeg, thanks for the stir-fry suggestion, I often forget about that and I really like the idea of grilling them - just saw a recipe in which you put a garlic & breadcrumb topping on after grilling - yum. I'm thinking of trying to grate and freeze - I should test run that idea before filling up my freezer.

Karen, do check out Susan Vreeland, all of her books seem to deal with art/artists in some way. I was fortunate enough to go hear her speak about the book I mentioned, I believe she was writing it while undergoing cancer treatment. She was a really generous and lovely woman.

Hello Sherry - I was too. I was glad to find the one I included in the post. The Perfect Summer is on my 'want' list, I keep hearing about that one. I will have to look into The Go-Between, thank you for the suggestion.

Hello Robin, I do think this would be a good introduction to her. I'm going to look into what else I might enjoy by her - it seems she has written quite a few books.

Danielle said...

I have the UK paper edition of this book. I have several of her novels, but I have not read any of them yet (need to get back to the Daphne Du Maurier bio). I didn't realize this was short stories, but I am still looking forward to it--I love books that touch on art!

Lotus Reads said...

"Girl in Hyacinth Blue" was my favorite book for a long,long time, perhaps I will have to read this one too!

Tara said...

Danielle, perhaps I shouldn't have used the term 'short stories', since I might not have read it if it was presented as such to me. But in a way it is, but the painting pulls all the stories about the different women together in a cohesive way.

Lotus, Girl in Hyacinth Blue has also been a favorite of mine in the past. I suggested it to my bookclub and they enjoyed it as well.